The Brumbies could move from Canberra to Melbourne within the next five years in a bid to secure the future of the Vodacom Super 14 franchise.
With Matt Giteau having secured a R6.7 million-a-year deal with the Western Force, the Brumbies could struggle to be financially competitive if third-party agreements become the norm.
Australian Rugby Union Players Association chief executive Tony Dempsey said third-party contracts were here to stay and the ACT-based Brumbies would struggle to compete for top-line talent.
“A move to Melbourne was something that was mooted by [former ARU boss] John O’Neill,” he told the Sun-Herald newspaper. “In the short term I don’t think it will happen, but who knows what will happen in five to 10 years? We have to be careful to ensure the future financial security of our provinces. At the moment there is no sign of financial distress but if that changes we have to consider all possibilities.”
The Brumbies have been involved in talks with the Victorian Rugby Union about strengthening ties between the two organisations, and the Brumbies are likely to play a home game in Melbourne. The city narrowly missed out on winning the fourth Super 14 franchise to Perth.
Rugby has strong corporate support in Melbourne and VRU boss Ron Steiner said that support had not been discouraged by the city’s failure to secure a Super 14 team.
“There is very, very strong corporate support for the game in Melbourne and at the development level the game is as sound as it has ever been,” he said. “We have forged a good relationship with the Brumbies and want them to be successful on and off the park.
“All we can do is ensure we put ourselves in the best position to deal with any eventualities. Whether that is a team moving to Melbourne or a fifth [Australian] team, we have to ensure we are ready.”